Probably my favorite thing about reading is finding my own thoughts and feelings beautifully evoked by others in the words on a page. It is comforting to know that someone out there understands, and that I have understanding for them. When I am reading a caregiving book or a memoir of someone dealing with Alzheimers, there are usually so many passages I mark that it can get rather tiresome (after the initial "oh!" upon finding my own feelings validated)...but I keep tearing little strips of post-it notes to mark them and hope to be better about taking the time to type them out here.
It has helped me today to reread these from The House of Beartown Road-A Memoir of Learning and Forgetting by Elizabeth Cohen...and I hope it helps someone else out there, too.
"When my father's mind began to loosen its grasp on the world, my mother's love quickened. It grew wings and teeth and extra hands."
"Daddy smiles. He may not know Ava's gender, but he understands jokes. He makes them, too. I think that a sense of humor must be hidden in a box very deep in the brain, where diseases have to search for it. Maybe this is an evolutionary tactic, to keep people going."
"These are silent, private pleasures, not visible to the outside world. They are our secret rituals. Alison doesn't know or can't imagine how hard could translate to challenging, how a rotten deal can be invigorating somehow. How, set against the backdrop of all that has gone wrong, everything right seems heightened. She is awed by the hardship of our lives, the long drive from my job at the paper out to Beartown Road, bringing in the wood, starting the fire. What she doesn't see is how I am blinded by the glare of all the silver linings. Our sweet, lick-crazy dog. This child with great, mooning eyes. The view from the top of the road of a dozen hills, receding in shades of purple."
"At work I have rearranged my cubicle to reflect the changes in my life. I take down a picture of Shane and put up one of Daddy and Ava. I have started to write about my own life all of the time: about snow, about memory, about loss. About Alzheimer's. Writing gives me a sense of control. It has its own special alchemy. I can what is terrible turn beautiful, like our purple-gray shadows on the snow."
"And I wake up before dawn, before Ava and Daddy, and go outside and run through the cemetery. I leave Samo inside, whining at the door. I want to be alone. I want to hear my feet thud and splash with no doggy echo. I want to be a person without baggage, if only for a few minutes. If only in a cemetery in the rain. I run and run. Away from the man who has left me, and the baby he left behind. I run from the remains of the person who was my father. I run from his questions. I pound against the hard ground, I jump over briar patches, ripping socks. I climb a steep hill to a field full of tiny yellow flowers and tall purple stalks that poke through snowy patches. Loosestrife is blooming, it shouts with color."
"The lilacs are the purple ribbons tied at the gates of spring. The hardest winter of my life is over. In the distance is the untuned banjo twang of a few frogs in the Wrights' pond. And beyond them, the night crammed with stars.
Stars and lilacs connect us to people. We are are not as alone as we feel. The same stars blink over the Wrights' house, over the people who lost their homes in the floods in Mozambique. Somewhere across the country those stars are shining over the heads of my mother and Shane. Her lilac bushes must be blooming, too. We couldn't be farther from one another, but despite all that has happened, we are still connected, by stars, by night, by spring."